When it comes to cruises, South Florida has the home court advantage. The Sun Sentinel reports there are hundreds of ships streaming in and out of our ports daily, ferrying an estimated 23 million passengers in one recent year alone.
Most trips go off without a hitch and people leave the Florida coast with nothing but great memories - and maybe a sunburn. However, a few unfortunate passengers leave with a serious injuries and a staggering hospital bill, thanks to a cruise ship slip-and-fall accident.
When passengers suffer personal injury due to the negligence of a cruise line, the cruise line may be liable to cover damages for the passenger, including compensation for:
- Medical bills;
- Lost wages due to time away from work;
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Ongoing medical bills;
- Pain and suffering.
Negligence lawsuits involving cruise lines are somewhat more complicated than other cases because they involve maritime law. Still, it's been well-established, via the 1959 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kermarec v. Compagnie Generale Transatlantique that ship owners have a duty of care to passengers to exercise reasonable care when it comes to safety. Cruise lines are bound to use reasonable care given the circumstances. That means passengers can't expect that the ship will be 100 percent safe, and they too must exercise reasonable care.
Cruise ships are especially prone to slippery surfaces, which may be the result of:
- Wet pool decks;
- Floors that were recently mopped or waxed;
- Common areas that are overcrowded;
- Food or drinks spilled on floors;
- Hallways that are crowded;
- Slippery showers/ bathing quarters;
- Broken/ unsteady handrails;
- Bar areas (where drinks are served) that are not regularly spot-checked;
- Bathrooms that have not been properly cleaned.
Those are just a few examples, and shouldn't be taken as an exhaustive list.
What plaintiffs must understand in West Palm Beach slip-and-fall accidents on cruise lines is that they may face a number of legal obstacles they might not otherwise encounter had the incident occurred on land. It begins with the statute of limitations.
In Florida, those wishing to file a claim for personal injury have four years to do so, per F.S. 95.11. For incidents resulting in wrongful death, claimants may have two years to file a claim in the state of Florida. However, when there is negligence associated with a cruise ship, passengers are typically contractually obligated to provide notice of a claim within six months and to file their lawsuit within just one year. That often catches people off-guard because they don't necessarily expect the rules to be different. This underscores the need to immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Florida as soon as possible after the incident.
There are some cases wherein courts may decide not to enforce these contractual limitations if they were unreasonable under the circumstances but generally, you agree to the terms of the "contract" when you purchase your ticket. Often, there is a great deal of fine print in those contracts, much of it with reducing the ship's liability if you are injured while on board.
Disputes may also arise as to the proper forum of cruise ship injury lawsuits. Here again, the provisions of that contract may dictate the appropriate court, which are almost always in U.S. District Courts. A number of recent rulings have upheld the cruise company's right to enforce these provisions.
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident while on a cruise ship, we can help you navigate the legal waters.